Jack Lewis Ryan passed away on March 20, 2016, surrounded by his loving family. He was born in Dallas, Oregon on May 14, 1933, to Charles W. Ryan and Cornie A. (Lewis) Ryan, both of east Tennessee. Jack grew up and thrived on a beautiful small farm in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range, in the community of Bridgeport. His early years were spent learning to farm, raise livestock, cook, harvest and preserve fruit and vegetables, and doing whatever was required to maintain the farm and help his family. He enjoyed swimming in the Little Luckiamute River, which ran through the farm, with his younger brother Pat and neighborhood children, and later as a teen-ager building small dams and holding all-night bonfires on the beach. In Jack’s formative years he hunted and fished, and experienced the joys of nature, a life-time pursuit. In his adult years he would return “home” to the farm to hold his famous fish fries for his childhood friends and family.
Jack was preceded in death by his parents, brother George “Pat” Ryan, and first wife Dorothy Ryan. He is survived by his former wife, JoAnn Ryan of West Richland, son Rex Ryan of Pasco, stepdaughters Barronelle Stutzman (Darold) of the Tri-Cities, and Thora Ziegler of Riverside, California, step-grandchildren Troy Woody (Dawn) and Dawn Persinger, (Marc), numerous step-great-grandchildren, nieces Ann Signal and Cynthia Ryan, and many close friends.
Jack attended the one-room Bridgeport Grade School, and later, Dallas High School. He left home at sixteen to study at Oregon State College (now Oregon State University), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry in 1953, and a Master of Science Degree in Chemistry in 1956. He was the youngest person at that time to graduate with a master’s degree from OSC. His professional career spanned over fifty years at the Hanford Site, primarily with Battelle Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. He made significant scientific and technical contributions in fundamental and applied inorganic, physical, and analytical chemistry of the actinide elements, in addition to the chemistry of the lanthanide and d-group transition elements. The breadth of his work led to noteworthy contributions in inorganic preparative chemistry, coordination chemistry, ion exchange and solvent extraction chemistry, absorption spectroscopy, electrochemistry, thermodynamics, and nonaqueous chemistry of these elements.
His works related to anion-exchange purification of plutonium and neptunium, the solubility and thermodynamics of the actinide oxides and hydroxides, and the electrolytic dissolution of plutonium dioxide are of particular significance to actinide separations in the nuclear industry. His accomplishments in these areas were reflected in various plant applications at Rocky Flats, Los Alamos, Hanford, and in other countries. In 1974, Jack co-invented catalyzed electrolytic dissolution of plutonium oxide. The merit of this invention is evidenced by the installation of plant-scale processes using this technology in France and the United Kingdom.
In addition to his research contributions in the laboratory, Jack prepared invited reviews of actinide-element ion exchange for the esteemed “Gmelin Handbuch der Anorganischen Chemie” and of actinide-absorption spectra. Jack also gave invited lectures and short courses in the fields of actinide chemistry, actinide-absorption spectra, and actinide ion exchange, and educated scientists and engineers in the Hanford area through teaching graduate-level chemistry courses in “Lanthanide and Actinide Chemistry” and “Ion Exchange Chromatography”. His original works in actinide chemistry are published in numerous scientific journals and books and are recognized by chemists worldwide. He authored more than one hundred technical articles during his career. Some of Jack’s contributions to chemistry are catalogued in the Library of Congress.
Jack consulted in the field of actinide chemistry as related to laser-isotope separation, nuclear-weapons proliferation, and actinide-chemical processing. He consulted on the causes of chemical explosions in actinide purification processes and served on a committee reviewing actinide-processing plant safety. Additionally, Jack consulted on safety considerations related to the use of organic ion-exchange resins in the clean-up of Three-Mile Island contamination.
In 1999, the Actinide Separations Conference recognized the importance of Jack’s contributions by honoring him with the Glenn T. Seaborg Actinide Separations Award, a national award recognizing significant and lasting contributions to separating actinide elements.
Jack was a sixty-year member of the American Chemical Society (past chair of the local section and recipient of “1991 Chemist of the Year” award), the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Sigma Xi.
Jack was an avid and skilled outdoorsman. He found great joy in hiking, backpacking, mountain climbing, hunting, fishing, crabbing, mushrooming, gardening, cutting firewood, and roaming the land searching for wild foods, abandoned crops, and usable discarded items. He piled more than a dozen cords of firewood on his driveway, which allowed him to heat his house for years without using his electric heating system. Nearly every year he filled his deer and elk tags, brought home many limits of fish and chukars, harvested dozens of gallons of wild mushrooms, and grew hundreds of pounds of produce in his organic garden. Nothing went to waste – Jack canned and froze all of his bounty so that it could be enjoyed all year long, and shared with many.
He was happiest when family and friends accompanied him on his forays, taking many solo trips when they were not available. It was common for Jack to venture miles off the roads and trails in search of the ultimate hunting or fishing experience. No cliff, blackberry bramble, poison ivy patch, rattlesnake habitat, angry bear, or below-zero temperature could stop him. Picking his way through five miles of forest at night with ninety pounds of elk meat on his back repetitively in five round trips was routine for him each hunting season. He was at home with nature and all of its rigors. His lineage can be traced to Meriwether Lewis, which comes as no surprise.
Jack truly was a unique individual. He was frugal to a fault, spending only a thousand dollars each year on food and clothing items. His favorite shopping experience was poking around Goodwill. He enjoyed going barefoot and performed all of his gardening duties, including spading, without shoes. Television was an unnecessary luxury. The local newspaper, National Geographic magazine, and various technical journals provided Jack ample information to stay well-informed. He was stubborn yet fair, and honest and loyal in his interactions with others. He was a keen observer of his surroundings and work activities, and enjoyed recounting his observations in detail. Jack’s friends marveled at the incongruity of his incredible memory for detail, but lack of recollection that he had told them the same story several times before.
The legendary Jack Ryan’s family and friends will cherish his memory for decades to come, recounting stories of adventure among themselves, and never, ever, forgetting the kind, generous, amazing, independent wild mountain man who Jack was. He leaves us in awe of an interesting and adventurous life well-lived. His ashes will be scattered in several beautiful nature locations that were very special to him.
“Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness. And they live by what they hear. Such people become crazy… or they become legend.” ~ Jim Harrison
In lieu of flowers, please contribute to The National Geographic Society.
A remembrance service and memorial will be announced at a later time.